Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Poll: What Do You Think About a Woman Taking Her Husband’s Name?

MarriageGeorge Clooney’s new wife, Amal Alamuddin, who is an accomplished woman in her mid-30s, took his last name when they married and some people were all, “Woah.” HuffPo even posted a poll this week asking readers what they really thought about women taking their husband’s name when they married. I thought it would be interesting to pose the same question to the DW audience, 80% of whom are female and 53% are between the ages of 25-44. The question isn’t whether YOU would or did take your husband’s name, but what you think about other women who do. And if you’d like to explain or expand on your response in the comments, please do.

[polldaddy poll=”8393405″]

74 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Schwinny October 22, 2014, 3:22 pm

    Her life, her choice. Isn’t that what feminism is all about?

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    • avatar

      Riefer October 22, 2014, 3:28 pm

      No, not specifically. It’s about equality. “Her life, her choice” is true, but so is “His life, his choice”, which has nothing to do with feminism.

      I think if feminism were to reach an endpoint where we actually were all equal, this wouldn’t even be a debate. No one would change their name. Either that, or families who wanted to all have the same last name would flip a coin or something. It wouldn’t be gendered the way it is now. Because to me, saying “her life, her choice” is very frustrating, when she DOESN’T have the choice that a man has, which is to have society support you in thinking your spouse should change their name to yours.

      Anyway, I didn’t answer the poll because none of the answers really described me. What I wish is that women wouldn’t change their names, and then this whole issue would be decided and we could move on. But in real life it’s not black and white, and no one can do the “most feminist” thing all the time (myself included), so I would never call them traitors to all women for changing it.

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    • avatar

      ktfran October 22, 2014, 3:30 pm

      I was going to pick that one… then I went with Clooney rolls off the tongue a little easier… in all seriousness, I truly think her life, her choice.

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      • mrmidtwenties

        mrmidtwenties October 22, 2014, 3:42 pm

        As someone whose last name is kinda weird and always mispronounced, I think more people should just blend their last names when they get married, think of the cool names that would create

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      • avatar

        ktfran October 22, 2014, 3:49 pm

        My last name is almost always mispronounced too. The funny thing is, if you take the time to read it syllable by syllable, it’s pronounced exactly how it should be. Like, there’s no silent letters or anything. I think people are intimated by the 11 letters maybe?

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      • avatar

        Riefer October 22, 2014, 4:06 pm

        Mine is an anglicized version of a french name, so technically the way I say it is a mispronunciation. 🙂

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      • othy

        othy October 22, 2014, 3:50 pm

        I had a friend do this. Her husband’s Iranian, and had a last name that meant traitor. Neither one of them wanted that name. Her last name was very similar (in meaning) to his grandmother’s last name, so they took a combination of the English/Iranian version of that.

        And I knew a couple that created a completely new last name together.

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      • Portia

        Portia October 22, 2014, 4:07 pm

        I have a fairly common, mildly ethnic last name, while Bassanio has a fairly common last name. So whichever way you sliced it, we’d be boring. Plus they end the same, so blending is kinda out… 🙁
        .
        But I think I’ll go with Princess Consuela Banana Hammock.

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      • avatar

        RedroverRedrover October 22, 2014, 4:25 pm

        Only if he goes as Crap Bag!

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      • Portia

        Portia October 22, 2014, 5:38 pm

        🙂

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    • avatar

      Riefer October 22, 2014, 3:46 pm

      Not really. It’s about equality. It’s about giving women the choice to do what men do, but it doesn’t mean that every choice is the most feminist thing you can do. Plus “her life, her choice” kind of pisses me off in the context of this, because it’s “her choice” out of the limited available choices. She doesn’t have the choice to just assume she’ll keep her name and her husband will automatically take hers and all her kids will have hers.

      With that being said, none of the options describe what I feel. I certainly don’t think every woman can make the “most feminist” choice on everything in her life (myself included). It’s not a black and white issue, there are pros and cons to consider on both sides. I wouldn’t call someone a traitor to feminism if they chose to change their name because they thought it was the better choice for them. My wish would be that everyone would keep their name, and then this issue would be decided and just go away. But that’s clearly not going to happen for a long time.

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    • avatar

      RedroverRedrover October 22, 2014, 3:50 pm

      Not really. It’s about equality. It’s about giving women the choice to do what men do, but it doesn’t mean that every choice is the most feminist thing you can do. Plus “her life, her choice” kind of pisses me off in the context of this, because it’s “her choice” out of the limited available choices. She doesn’t have the choice to just assume she’ll keep her name and her husband will automatically take hers and all her kids will have hers.
      .
      With that being said, none of the options describe what I feel. I certainly don’t think every woman can make the “most feminist” choice on everything in her life (myself included). It’s not a black and white issue, there are pros and cons to consider on both sides. I wouldn’t call someone a traitor to feminism if they chose to change their name because they thought it was the better choice for them. My wish would be that everyone would keep their name, and then this issue would be decided and just go away. But that’s clearly not going to happen for a long time.

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      • Portia

        Portia October 22, 2014, 4:18 pm

        I like to think of it as a choice, but you are right in a way, that it’s a loaded deck of choices.
        .
        A while ago I was thinking about it and if I took any name, I’d like to take my grandma’s maiden name. It’s tied enough to my heritage and that name ended with a generation of women, which is kind of unfortunate and I’d gladly continue that line. But, that’s not really a choice we’re allowed to make.

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      • avatar

        Riefer October 22, 2014, 4:36 pm

        Why? You could just change your name for the hell of it. Can you imagine, you’re getting married, and he’s like, so are you going to change your name? And you go, yeah, to my grandma’s maiden name! 🙂

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      • muchachaenlaventana

        muchachaenlaventana October 22, 2014, 4:38 pm

        Yes this so much! I have been so criticized by my friends for my stance on this and when I ask them why they will take their husbands name they just respond “it is what people do”. But the thing is we do it because of this long history of male hegemony and it is so deeply rooted in patriarchy that women don’t even have the wherewithal to be like “wait, why am I taking his name” some people say it doesn’t matter where it came from, it is what people do now; but I have trouble with that line of logic. That said, I still don’t judge women for taking their husbands’ name, and I hopefully will receive the same courtesy when or
        if I get married myself, although based on peoples reactions to my stance that seems unlikely.

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      • Addie Pray

        Addie Pray October 22, 2014, 5:03 pm

        “She doesn’t have the choice to just assume she’ll keep her name and her husband will automatically take hers and all her kids will have hers.” <— great point.

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  • avatar

    poplin October 22, 2014, 3:50 pm

    Your poll would be slightly more interesting if your own bias against women taking their husband’s names didn’t eclipse all else.

    Of your answers, two struck me as neutral (one and five), one was ostensibly “pro” (two–though the over-the-top language makes me question my own categorization) and three characterize women who take their husband’s last names as foolish, religiously simple-minded idiots (three, four and six).

    It’s fine that you have your opinion, and this *is* your site, so hell, do whatever you want. But why have a poll if you aren’t going to pretend to offer some insight through the results? There isn’t even an “other” option.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy October 22, 2014, 8:10 pm

      Huh, I actually don’t have a bias against women taking their husband’s names. I am very pro-choice on the matter, actually. This was meant to be a fun poll to generate discussion and not necessarily to shed insight through results (hence why I didn’t pretend to offer any). I’m interested in people’s choices and in why they chose/choose what they do if they’re open to sharing their stories.
      .
      I personally kept my name because I really like it and because I was a little older when I married (32) and had published under this name and so it was important for me to retain continuity. Also, the name stops at my generation (unless either my sister or I have a child we pass our last name to, which I don’t think will happen), so I liked at least carrying the name on a little longer. I do feel sad sometimes that I don’t share the same name as Jackson. I don’t really feel sad that I don’t share the share the same name as drew, though, and I guess maybe there is some bias at play there. I guess I feel like he could have always taken my name or we could have created a new last name together, but we didn’t and so apparently we were equally indifferent about sharing a name. But with a child, it’s a little different. He didn’t have a chance to express an opinion about whether we shared the same name or not. And a child does “belong” to a parent in a way that’s different that a spouse belonging to another spouse. Sometimes I feel a little sad that jackson “belonging” to me (that isn’t exactly the right word, but it’s been a long day and I can’t think of a better one right now) isn’t as obvious to the outside world on name alone.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy October 22, 2014, 8:14 pm

        But, honestly, I really couldn’t care less if a woman takes her husband’s name or keeps her own or hyphenates or whatever. In groups of friends when the topic has come up, I’ve actually defended women I know who have chosen, for a variety of reasons, to take their husband’s name. More power to them. Sometimes, in certain circles of people or areas of the country, that choice is a pretty brave one.

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      • dizziej

        dizziej October 23, 2014, 10:42 am

        Since you were interested in stories here is mine, it may not be popular, but it’s mine.

        When my husband and I were taking our marriage course, our Pastor asked my if I was going to change my name and I said yes. He asked me why and this was my reply:

        Historically women were property to be traded at will by their fathers. The changing of the last name signified the change in ownership between father and husband. While I do not believe I am property and I know my husband does not believe that, once we are married the responsibility for my well being becomes my husbands. It is his job (to the extent that he is capable) to make sure that I am happy, clothed, fed and housed. Changing my last name, to me, signified that those responsibilities were no longer my Dad’s but my Husbands.

        Having said that, I am responsible for my own well being as well. If we need me to work outside of the home in order to provide for our family, then that is my responsibility. My husband needs to accept that and support me in my decisions. If he is unhappy in his job and needs a change to improve our emotional well being, it is my responsibility to support that, even if it means I have to work longer hours to make up the short fall. It is less about “ownership” and more about shared mutual responsibility that we are unified and “running back to daddy” (which I was notorious for!) was no longer an option.

        My Pastor said in 30+ years of doing marriage counselling he had never head a woman give that reason before.

        I would never condemn someone for not changing their name. To each his (or her) own. I voted her life, her choice.

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      • avatar

        snow.angel October 23, 2014, 11:43 am

        I completely agree, and feel like a big reason many women go the more “traditional” route of taking the husband’s name is so that the parents and children are more easily recognizable as a family unit. I feel like this is a very valid feeling and perspective, and it would have been nice if it was reflected in the poll without the whole “hell in a hand basket” sarcasm attached to it.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy October 24, 2014, 7:11 am

        It’s totally a valid reason, but if it’s so important that parents and children are easily recognizable as a family unit, a man could take a woman’s name. That that is very, very rarely considered, even among pretty progressive and liberal circles. We are so far away from true equality on this issue — a man taking his wife’s name being just as “normal” and part of the conversation as a wife taking her husband’s name — and I think part of that is definitely a fear of what other people will think (hence, any sarcasm you may have detected.).

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  • avatar

    Kate October 22, 2014, 4:02 pm

    I honestly don’t think anything of it. It’s just a decision each woman has to make based on multiple different factors.

    But yeah, from experience, once you do it once, you’re not so willing to do it again!

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    • avatar

      RedroverRedrover October 22, 2014, 4:12 pm

      One of my friends did! I couldn’t believe it when she told me. Because she had gone through hell calling around and getting it changed back DURING a really bad divorce. And no one understood what she was asking for, so they’d pass her to their manager or whatever, and then the manager’s manager, so she’d have to explain like two or three times, “I’m getting divorced, I want to change my name back”, and she was almost in tears about it. And no one had an easy way to do it, so it took forever. She had to do it for all her credit cards, her ID, her bills, her insurance, everything. It was brutal.
      .
      If I’m being honest with myself, I don’t like it. I was disappointed when this friend did it, and I was disappointed when my other friends did it (almost all of them did). We live in a major city that’s really multicultural, including a lot of Chinese people (who don’t change names, culturally). So people are very used to couples with different names. But still they changed them. I guess I don’t “get” it. Like, I understand the pros and cons on paper, I mentally understand, but I just can’t understand the actual urge to do it.

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      • avatar

        Kate October 22, 2014, 4:18 pm

        It is such a hassle. I changed my name in my first marriage because I felt like it was just what you do. This was in 1996 before I had a real job (I was really young) or the internet was really a thing. And it was still a huge pain in the ass to change SS, license, passport, etc. Same thing when I got the piece of paper in the divorce that said I could have my old name back. So I just did not feel like doing it again. These days, with a career and all the places online and offline where I’d have to do a name change, and total lack of time to get anything done, I just could not face it. I only tacked his last name onto mine on FB because it made him feel good for whatever reasons and was easy.

        But honestly I have zero feelings about other women changing their names.

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      • becboo84

        becboo84 October 22, 2014, 4:24 pm

        While I picked the “their choice, their life,” if I’m being honest, I am always surprised/disappointed by the number of women who change it. I live in a medium sized city in downstate IL, so I’m not necessarily surprised by that, but I am surprised by the number of successful, very feminist women who live in more urban areas and change it.

        Women of the women on the Board of the Association I work for got married a couple of months ago. She’s in her early 40s, no kids, never married before, has her MBA, and is the Executive VP of a major hospital chain on the East coast, I was shocked when she changed it not only legally, but professionally as well.

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      • avatar

        miabelle October 22, 2014, 7:26 pm

        It makes me sad when I read that people are disappointed when women change their name. It’s such a personal decision, and you end up judged no matter what you do. I wish it could be more about supporting a friend’s decision and being happy for her regardless. I mean, isn’t it great we have a choice?

        I have my own personal reasons for changing mine that I don’t feel the need to share. Now, to this day I still have friends that refuse to use my new last name. I could have given into the pressure from my friends to NOT change my name, and therefore keep their respect, but isn’t that the main issue? That you should do what you want and not what society tells you to do? So instead, I chose to change it for myself and live with their disappointment, which in turn makes me sad that they bother to feel that way about a choice that makes me happy.

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      • LadyinPurpleNotRed

        LadyinPurpleNotRed October 22, 2014, 8:05 pm

        WMS!! All this judgment is just plain shitty. And is another version of the mommy wars. It’s stupid. Do what you want. Stop being so fucking judgmental.

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      • avatar

        RedroverRedrover October 22, 2014, 8:26 pm

        It’s not disappointment “at them”. It’s disappointment that in general, we’re expected to not keep our names, and it’s thought to be totally normal and accepted. At least for me. Your friends are jerks about it if they judge you and refuse to use your new name.

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  • Kate B.

    Kate B. October 22, 2014, 4:19 pm

    Honestly, I am sick to death of everybody second-guessing and critiquing every woman’s choice, whatever it is. Who cares? Let them do what they want to do and leave them alone. I don’t understand why everyone’s making a fuss over this. For the record, I would change my name if I got married. I would, because I want to.

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    • avatar

      RedroverRedrover October 22, 2014, 4:24 pm

      I know what you mean, and I wish the conversation would change not to the choice itself, but to the fact that we have a limited set of choices due to sexism. Women shouldn’t be expected by society to literally change their identity when they get married. It’s the expectation that’s the problem, not the choice the woman makes out of her limited set of choices.

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      • Kate B.

        Kate B. October 22, 2014, 4:50 pm

        But are the choices really so limited? Maybe I don’t see that in this case. Limited by whom? Society? I mean, who is society? People are society. And what bugs me is that “people” make such a fuss. And then the woman is blasted for it. Like if a woman chooses to stay at home and raise her kids, she’s some sort of feminist traitor. Feminism is about recognizing that you have choices, not trying to impose your choices on someone else. If you do that, you’re just as bad as those people you’re fighting against. I mean, who cares what her name is? It doesn’t change who she is. As long as she’s happy with it, no one else has anything to say about it. She shouldn’t have to defend herself. It seems to me the only people attacking her are feminists. (Now, if I married George Clooney, I would definitely change my name, simply because I would not believe it otherwise. I would need that daily reminder. “Holy shit, what did I do???”)

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      • avatar

        RedroverRedrover October 22, 2014, 5:00 pm

        Yeah, they are limited. Women can’t choose “just keep my name and my spouse is happy to change his to mine and all my kids automatically get mine”. To get your kids to have your name is really tough. Because you have to find a husband who not only doesn’t mind that you keep your name, but also doesn’t mind that the kids have your name and not his. Those men are few and far between. Not to mention that yeah, you’d be pretty judged by society for it.
        .
        I think you feel like women who change their name get attacked, but trust me, we’re ALL getting attacked. I got a lot of reactions like “What? What do you mean you didn’t change your name?”. Those don’t sound very bad, but that’s because my family won’t actually say anything impolite to your face. What they mean is “What’s wrong with you? Are you crazy?”. And there are some who still insist on calling me by husband’s last name, even though I’ve told them multiple times that I didn’t change it.
        .
        Women can’t win, with any of this crap. You’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t. But feminism is not about recognizing that you have choices, it’s about ensuring that you have the same choices as men, and the freedom to make the same choices as men. Which we do not. Even if we keep our name (as men do), we are questioned, we are attacked, we are thought of as unfeminine, or feminazis, or whatever the hell else people think of women who keep them. And we certainly don’t get to have kids with our last name, like men automatically do.

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  • avatar

    kriskros October 22, 2014, 4:26 pm

    I haven’t taken my husbands name yet. I might still someday, I’m undecided. I couldn’t care less what other people chose to do with their names. I don’t have an opinion about peoples first names, so why should I care about their last one? I do have several friends that were married in the last few years though that had a little identity crisis over their name change for the first few months, but they are happy with their decision now. I say do whatever makes you happy.

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  • gigi

    gigi October 22, 2014, 4:27 pm

    I guess I just don’t care what my name is anymore, I am me whether I am a Smith or Jones or whatever. I haven’t been my maiden name for good long time & I didn’t like it anyway. I do like matching my kids however, so I will keep my current last name….until it suits me not to. It is a total PITA to get it changed as well, so it can stay as it is for now.

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  • freckles

    freckles October 22, 2014, 4:30 pm

    I changed my name, but sometimes I wish I hadn’t, but only from a feminist standpoint. I’ll admit it irritates me that the woman is the one who 99% of the time changes or is expected to change her name. My husband never even considered it when I asked if he would change his name instead (altho he did say he was fine with whatever I chose). I feel like I’m conforming to the archaic practice where the woman becomes the property of the man when they get married.

    In reality I just wanted to have the same last name. But still.

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  • call-me-hobo

    call-me-hobo October 22, 2014, 4:35 pm

    This is so weird, guys. I literally did ALL of my name change stuff today. It wasn’t too terrible; I managed to get all the major stuff done in one morning.
    We made an agreement- he thought engagement rings were a dumb, antiquated tradition, and I thought name changes were a hassle. I kinda wanted a ring and he wanted a name change, so we agreed to do the stupid tradition thing for each other! That way we each felt like we made a compromise.

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  • honeybeenicki

    honeybeenicki October 22, 2014, 4:47 pm

    I think people should do whatever makes them happy. I changed my name when I got married for multiple reasons – I wanted to have the same last name as my husband and kids (including the two bonus kids who were already there and already had the last name) and I hated my maiden name (It’s the name of a famous soup brand. So many soup jokes). So, him changing his name to mine wouldn’t have worked (since I didn’t even want to keep it and because of the kids) and blending also wouldn’t. I will admit, I’m not a huge fan of hyphenating. I don’t know what it is I have against it, but sometimes it drives me bonkers.

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  • avatar

    va-in-ny October 22, 2014, 4:48 pm

    When I get married, I intend to take my husband’s last name. I feel that who I am as a person isn’t wrapped up in a name. Taking a new last name (and moving my maiden name to my middle name) won’t change who I am any more than legally binding myself to another human would. Last name or not.
    I like the idea of becoming a family unit under a common name. I like the unity of it. Does that make me a misogynist or somehow anti-feminist? I would certainly hope not!

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  • FireStar

    FireStar October 22, 2014, 4:59 pm

    Feminism, to me, is about having the ability to choose and achieve the life you want for yourself…. that means change your name or don’t; work outside the home or don’t; bake cookies or don’t; change a tire or don’t. Determine for yourself what you want and have at it. I hate this notion that only one type of woman is a feminist – and here are the criteria and anyone else is a traitor to the cause. I think this is why the younger generation are saying stupid things like they aren’t feminists – the love men! Quite frankly those men they love should be feminist too.

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  • othy

    othy October 22, 2014, 5:35 pm

    I took my husband’s last name for a couple of reasons. First, because his last name is a lot more unique than my married name. I think there are only about 3 other people with my first/last combination on Facebook (and Othello is related distantly to 2 of them), compared to thousands with my old last name. The second reason was actually a logistical reason – it’s a lot easier to deal with companies/doctors/issues when we share a last name. I can say “Hi, I’m Mr. Jones” and have them believe me if I’m married to a Jones, but if I’m married to a Smith, it’s a lot harder to gain that assurance that we are a package deal.
    .
    Oh, and a random tidbit. I have a staunch feminist friend with the last name Anderson. She didn’t change her name when we got married, which didn’t surprise anyone. However, she gave her first kid the *first* name Anderson, so they’d still share a name. I’m still not sure what I think of that.

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  • avatar

    bcamber October 22, 2014, 5:37 pm

    My opinion is that it is annoying that there is even a poll about this. Doesn’t this just encourage the questioning/examining of choices that women are free to make? I’d be equally annoyed at a poll asking “how do you feel about stay at home moms?”

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  • Miel

    Miel October 22, 2014, 5:53 pm

    I wish the poll had an option “Wait, there are women who DO take their husband’s names? Oh my God. How can we trace back all of what a women accomplished in her life if she changed name in the middle of it ? I understand why the hospitals treat everyone with their maiden name, otherwise they would get mixed in their files !” Because that’s how I was before I started learning more about the american culture. Growing up, the thought of someone changing their name was this huge deal, I had no idea that millions of women were doing it all over North America, even in the 21st century.

    Now I’ve learned that actually 95% of married women in the US have their husband name. I don’t judge individual american women that change their name, because they just do what is accepted in their society, the same way I wouldn’t judge a chinese person who eats rice everyday (think of all the carbs !). But I’m still uncomfortable when someone says “I’m a feminist because I made the choice to change my name to my husband’s name”. I think that makes no sense. The choice in the US is to do what’s expected of you or to do an 180 and spend your life explaining your situation. That’s not a real choice.

    It would be a real choice if about 50% of women weren’t changing their name, and about 50% of women were. THEN that would be the sign that there’s a real choice, and no societal pressure in one direction or the other. And it would be a feminist society if the expectation on name change was the same for men and women…

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    • hyggelig

      hyggelig October 22, 2014, 7:51 pm

      I think this is a really great point – that while the overwhelming majority of American women take their husband’s names, that the choice presented to women is not as much of a choice as we like to think it is.

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      • avatar

        RedroverRedrover October 22, 2014, 8:35 pm

        That’s what people don’t seem to get. Feminism isn’t about “having a choice” – feminism is the thing that gave us the little choice we have. It’s the other way round from what a lot of people are saying here. Choices don’t equal feminism. Feminism is the mechanism that attempts to give us choice. And the job isn’t done, because frankly, there shouldn’t even be a need to choose. Men don’t even have to think about this. Why do women? My name means something to me. I have papers published under it. I have a patent under it. I am a known expert in my (admittedly small) field of work. People in my field know my name. It means something to them, too. Why am I expected to throw it away? Why should I have to even consider it? Men know that names are important; that’s why they don’t change theirs. It should have become extremely obvious once women started working in professional jobs that it doesn’t make sense for them to change their names anymore. But it didn’t. Because we’re just women and we’re not as important.
        .
        That is the issue. When an individual woman chooses to change her name? Ok, I’m not crazy about it personally, but fine, I understand the pressures. When over 90% of them change their names? Yeah, I’m pissed. That clearly shows that society thinks our professional names don’t matter, and whether our achievements follow us or not doesn’t matter. Society thinks that what DOES matter is that our name matches our baby’s name. Because that’s the most important thing for women. Still.
        .
        Sorry about the rant, but it’s extremely frustrating to see everyone talking about being upset at women’s individual choices. Those are the trees. The forest is the real issue. Let’s talk about that.

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      • LadyinPurpleNotRed

        LadyinPurpleNotRed October 22, 2014, 8:37 pm

        In the forest you have to acknowledge that a percentage of trees chose that spot. That’s something that seems to be ignored. It’s just assumed that society pressured them. That they had no agency in the choice.

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      • Miss MJ

        Miss MJ October 22, 2014, 8:46 pm

        This! Jesus. No one gives a shit. Even in my super conservative area of the country – deep South, red all the way – if you keep your name, no one cares or judges or anything. They just don’t expect it, so when they call you by your husband’s last name, they feel embarrassed they got it wrong. But they don’t care about the whys of it one way or the other. It’s the same deal as when moms and kids don’t have the same last name – no one judges it, they just want to get your name right and feel bad when they don’t. I’d say my friends are 1/3 kept her name; 1/3 use his name; 1/3 use both or hyphenate and no one cares. They just want to get it right.

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      • Miel

        Miel October 22, 2014, 9:05 pm

        Societal pressure doesn’t just mean people insulting you when then see you in the street. It’s also the way marriage is depicted and the models women have growing up. In the US, a girl will grow up and 95% of the married women she knows will have their husband’s last name. And so when the girl think about her own future, she thinks “one day, I’ll find a great man, we will get married and I will take his last name, and it will be amazing”.
        .
        Imaging growing up thinking you will keep your name forever because that’s your name and that’s what people do. And then the day before your wedding somebody tells you “well, you know, you could change your name and take your husband’s name instead !” Most reaction would be “wut ? why would I do that ? WHO does that ?!” and that’s because they never grew up thinking it was an option, and never knew another women who did it. Of course, there would be a small minority saying “for real ? that’s great ! I hate my current last name and I’m really happy to hear I can change it !” but as I said, that would be a minority.
        .
        When I was growing up I saw a marriage being associated to a church, a white dress and a tuxedo, flowers… So now I want to have a white dress too at my own wedding. Just because that’s what a wedding looks like in my head. Because society dictates that wedding dresses are white. Of course, I have a “choice” and technically, I can have a magenta dress if I want, and people won’t insult me on the street if I dare having a magenta dress… Still, society does expect brides to be wearing white. And so most brides do.

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      • Miss MJ

        Miss MJ October 22, 2014, 9:17 pm

        I mean, I don’t know what to say. This is so insulting to the intelligence of women everywhere. It’s like you think we cannot think for ourselves. “Someone told them to do it and now they do, blindly, like sheep walking off of a cliff.” Let’s assume for a minute that women aren’t stupid. And that they know they don’t have to change their names. Because it’s 2014. And that they know people who don’t or who went back to maiden or who didn’t take husband no. 2s name because of the kids and who never changed their name and who basically understand it’s a choice. Because, I think most women get that. And that if they choose to change their name, it’s for reasons of their own. Just like women know you don’t have to have a pretty princess wedding, but if they choose to do so, it’s for reasons of their own. And, “I want to” is a sufficient reason. So, why can we not just accept that as being okay?

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      • Miel

        Miel October 22, 2014, 9:36 pm

        Then why would we ever need role models if people aren’t inspired by the person they look up to ? Why is it important to show to a certain group “look, someone from your group did that and now they are happy and having a great life”. If you go to a school where let’s say, 5% of students get their degree and 95% drop out. Is it insulting to their intelligence to bring in positive models of “look, this person got their degree and they are happy”. I mean they have the choice to get their degree, they know some people do, they don’t need models of people that did it to know they can, they aren’t sheep that are just going to follow what the mass does…
        .
        My point is, we are influenced by the successful people we look up to. And because 95% of successful women out there have their husband’s name, yes we associate happiness and success to being like those women we look up to. People choose things based on past experiences, based on what they see in their community, based on advertisement, based on their dreams and aspirations… It’s not being a sheep, it’s just basic psychology. We don’t live in bubbles, isolated from outside influences.
        .
        I’m not saying “people who change their name are bad people”. I’m saying they have associated this concept with the bigger concept of a happy life, and so it makes them happy to change their name. It makes them feel good about themselves and about their marriage. Their personal reasons are “it makes me feel good to do such a thing”. And that’s not because changing your name objectively makes your life happy, it’s because they’ve associated the two concepts for basically their whole life and so they are looking forward to it.

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      • avatar

        RedroverRedrover October 22, 2014, 8:48 pm

        I’m not sure what you’re getting at. Are you trying to say that because there’s a choice, that there’s no social pressure one way or the other? That every woman who changed her name (or even a majority of them) were really happy and excited to do so? And that if society (including their husbands) truly didn’t care one way or another, that the number would still be that high?
        .
        Saying that there is societal pressure is nowhere close to saying they have no agency. Of course we have agency. But we react to the world around us and that shapes what we choose. It’s not a completely “free” choice, the way that deciding whether to have toast or a bagel for breakfast is.

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      • LadyinPurpleNotRed

        LadyinPurpleNotRed October 22, 2014, 8:53 pm

        I’m not saying that ALL women sat and thought carefully about the reasons why they wanted to change. Just saying that you and others are making it seem like a) no progress has been made with that–and maybe in your worlds it hasn’t, but in others it has and b) that all women that change it are solely doing it because of society, they couldn’t POSSIBLY have any other reason for changing their names.

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      • LadyinPurpleNotRed

        LadyinPurpleNotRed October 22, 2014, 8:54 pm

        and what about the men that HAVE tried to change their name–they go through SO MUCH MORE difficulty than women who change their name/women who don’t. So saying why don’t men change their name just ignores those issues at hand.

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      • Miss MJ

        Miss MJ October 22, 2014, 9:07 pm

        Yes. Not saying this is the case historically, but I’m saying that in today’s world, even in the most conservative areas of the country, society doesn’t care if you change your name to your husband’s or not. Since it’s traditional, in the absence of other information, they may assume you did (although honestly, I’ve heard the question “what name does she go by?” a lot). Given the number of divorces and remarriages and so on there are an array of last name options and people are just used to it. If your individual husband cares, that’s between you and him, but it’s your choice to change it or not. I have never once, in 30-odd years ever heard anyone comment on what a woman’s last name was, except to be sure they get it right. And in wanting to get it right, there is an acknowledgement, implicit maybe, that whatever you choose is your business. So, no, outside of whatever a woman and her husband or immediate family or whoever believe or decide, I’d say that today, society in general could care less what last name a woman chooses and that most of the women who chose to change their names have their own – not society’s – reasons for doing so. We’ve seen them here: changed because my maiden name is difficult, I don’t like it, I like his better, I want to have the same last name as my husband and my kids, it meant a lot to him and something else meant a lot to me so we compromised; it’s easier…or I didn’t change because I didn’t want to; his is weird; because I like my name; because I feel that I would lose my identity; for professional reasons; because it is important to me. It’s really just a personal choice. Much like toast or a bagel. Except with a lot more paperwork. I mean, the fact that this is an actual question means there’s recognized choice. And, frankly, I think it’s a bit condescending to assume that most women changed their name because they felt pressure to do so. The reasons women who have done it speak for themselves, and the majority of them aren’t “I felt like I would be ridiculed or out of place if I did not.”

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      • Portia

        Portia October 23, 2014, 9:34 am

        I’m sorry, but there’s no way 95% of the country acts exactly the same way in a vacuum without any pressure. Even if we’re not outwardly berating women who choose one way or another, that societal pressure clearly exists.
        .
        Just as one example, Bassanio, the man who supported me getting my PhD, who was willing to follow me around if I decided to pursue academia, who initially moved to my city to find a job after he finished his degree, who has supported me in so many other ways before and since. Though I made it pretty clear a long time ago that I wasn’t planning to change my name, that same guy, when faced with the actual possibility I wasn’t going to change my name, started citing tradition and society, that we won’t be a unit, that I wasn’t serious about us if I wouldn’t, and actually brought up “what people would think.” That. Same. Guy. I actually laughed for a second because I couldn’t believe it. He’s squarely in the millennial generation, isn’t strongly religious, lives in a large metropolitan area, works with almost all women, and has never brought up tradition as a reason for anything before, to the point that he expressed a willingness to be a stay-at-home dad (that last one surprised even me). And when I asked if he would take my name, if having the same name was the issue, that was an immediate no. Dude, if that isn’t a glaring example of the societal pressure in this country, I don’t know what is.

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      • Portia

        Portia October 23, 2014, 9:44 am

        *replace 95 percent with the actual percent (which now that I’m looking online I can’t find a good figure – 86% + 6% who otherwise don’t keep their names in some other way? 82%? In general, though, these figures seem to be well above 3/4 of people who get married.)

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      • avatar

        RedroverRedrover October 22, 2014, 8:54 pm

        Alright, I guess I’m done. I want to have an actual discussion, not fight about the definition of the word “choice”. I want to talk about the fact that we don’t have the same options as men, and what that means for the status of women in general, and what the possible solutions might be. But it looks like that isn’t going to happen.

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      • LadyinPurpleNotRed

        LadyinPurpleNotRed October 22, 2014, 8:56 pm

        Well if we are looking at options, men don’t really have the option of changing their name–based on society’s standards.

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  • avatar

    TheTruth October 22, 2014, 6:49 pm

    While no guarantee… I suspect it means there is a much greater chance that their marriage will work out.

    I would love to see the divorce statistics for marriages where the woman doesn’t take the mans name. I’m guessing its extremely high.

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    • avatar

      Kate October 22, 2014, 7:09 pm

      So google it and report back! More productive than trolling.

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  • Lyra

    Lyra October 22, 2014, 7:24 pm

    I’m still so torn at if I ever want to change my name. I do want the same family name, but it seems like SUCH a pain to switch. Not to mention the whole feminist reasons and whatever. I don’t want to give up my name because it IS unique. If Navy Guy and I end up tying the knot his last name is one of those super common ones and I don’t know if I want that…is that weird? Haha. When I was dating my ex in my early 20’s I was all “I’ll take your name!!!” but now at 26 I’m all “I don’t know if I want it…”
    .
    It’s a conundrum. NG and I have talked a bit about it and he actually seemed a bit bummed that I wasn’t sure if I would want to change my last name. He’s a traditional dude and that’s a huge part of it. If a future husband would be upset if I didn’t take it I’m 99% sure I would change my last name and add my current one to my middle name. I actually think that’s what NG’s mom did.

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    • avatar

      CeeSea October 23, 2014, 5:21 pm

      If a future husband would be upset if I didn’t take their name, I’m 99% sure I wouldn’t marry them.

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  • mylaray

    mylaray October 22, 2014, 8:03 pm

    My first reaction is their life, their choice. But deeper than that, I think it’s important to have a conversation with yourself or with your partner on what it means to you and to realize there isn’t just one automatic way to do it. I know some women who wouldn’t ever think of NOT changing their name and I know some women who wouldn’t ever think of changing their name. It’s important to see both sides. I think this is also another way in which same sex couples can help influence opposite sex couples and there are so many options out there. For me, I go by whatever someone wants to call me. I haven’t legally changed my name and never will but I go by either and love it.

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  • Miss MJ

    Miss MJ October 22, 2014, 8:13 pm

    I didn’t officially change my name, but I use his last name in social settings and either my maiden or my maiden-his name professionally. Socially, it’s just easier because people where I live traditionally change their names and correcting people is awkward. Plus, having one last name does identify us as a family unit and since we’re not going to have kids, I like the idea that something labels our two-person family as such to third parties. Professionally, all my degrees, the beginning of my career, my academic and pre-marriage accomplishments are linked to my maiden name, so I use it. I used to use it exclusively, but now that own a business together, I find that using maiden-his name helps people identify us as a unit, while still linking me to my accomplishments. And, to me that’s what it is about. Not losing my identity, but identifying us as a partnership or team. And, sure, he could take my name or we could make up one; those are legitimate options. But why is me taking his any less legitimate? Because some people think so? Who cares what they think? It’s my life. There are bigger things to worry about than what last name a woman CHOOSES to use. (And, it is a choice.)

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  • avatar

    HmC October 22, 2014, 9:35 pm

    I wasn’t planning on changing my name, but by the time I married last January I had really warmed up to the idea and wanted to share a name with my husband. I got married older like Wendy (33) and had various career connections and accomplishments already, plus I really like my maiden name. So my plan became to keep two last names and use them interchangeably, but I had an issue with something of a stalker and decided to try and erase the maiden name from any online trails and just use the new last name. My point is, as with a lot of choices, you never really know the full story of why someone chooses to do something, and judging others for something like this that is so far down on the list of arguable unfeminist choices in terms of affecting other people is a waste of life.

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  • kare

    kare October 22, 2014, 10:09 pm

    I don’t see anything wrong with a woman taking her husband’s last name. For example, my friend is engaged and will definitely take her fiancé’s last name. Her parents are divorced and her mom went back to her maiden name. My friend’s dad is a horrible person that she has little contact with, so she has no ties to his last name. If anything, she’s glad to be rid of it. A lot of my friends have a similar relationship with their fathers and want to be rid of the ties to them.

    Personally, I will keep my maiden name if I get married because I’m lazy. Also, my last name is significant to me because it ties me to my grandfather. Our last name was important to him because he didn’t remember his parents and spent most of his life trying to reconnect with long lost siblings. I feel like I’d be throwing away all that he worked for if I changed my name.

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  • avatar

    Sunshine Brite October 22, 2014, 10:10 pm

    Yeah, I think it’s an opportunity to discuss the options to decide how you want to start your life together. Or wait. I mean, I decided to change my name but not until we were on our way to get the marriage license. I went back and forth with myself for months. And my husband. He was a good sounding board and discussed his decision on the matter as well.

    I didn’t want to hyphenate because then I’d have 5 names, no form would really have me… I’m connected to my middle names so I didn’t want to change those to my maiden name. I wanted his name but it was much plainer than mine. He felt connected to his name and didn’t want to change to something completely different and that felt too much for me too. He laughed about what his father’s reaction would be if he was changing his name, he’d never hear the end of it. His father’s nearly 80, gets some of the age related leeway. His brothers who are 15 and 17 years older than my husband wouldn’t have let him hear the end of it. Most of our families and friends from back home would be confused because pretty much everyone changes. It feels rather regional and changing/evolving all the time.

    It’s so funny, the friend from college who I would’ve thought would automatically change is the one who’s waiting to change until they have children because she wants her family to have the same name.

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  • avatar

    sourbones October 22, 2014, 10:11 pm

    I grew up with an awkward first name so my first reaction was, “It depends on whether or not it’ll sound awkward.” Or if it’ll sound like nsfw (I know such people but I refuse to give an example). Or if it’ll create some technical difficulties, for example, my first name is Ho and I marry a guy with the last name Ho, I am not changing my name to “Ho Ho” although such people exist and I’m not trying to hurt their feelings.

    So I don’t see it as a feminist issue. Taking my husband’s name doesn’t make me less feminist, and not taking it doesn’t make me more feminist. If I can say my name combined with my husband’s last name without blushing (sounding nsfw) or getting tongue-tied then it’s probably a green light because it’s something I’ll be saying for (hopefully) many decades.

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  • SixtyFour

    SixtyFour October 22, 2014, 11:32 pm

    In my ideal world when getting married and having a family, I’d keep my last name, my husband would keep his, any boys we had would get his last name, and any girls would get mine. This “genius” plan would get complicated if we had a child who was intersex or trans, but I’m sure we’d figure something out. I dont think I’ll ever get to do this though.

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  • avatar

    catz47 October 23, 2014, 10:17 am

    I maintained from day 1 of my relationship with my now-husband that I was keeping my name. I love my maiden name, love the family and heritage it’s tied to, and I just wouldn’t feel myself if I was Catz Hislastname (which, by the way, is the kind of last name that lends itself to so many unflattering nicknames, and both his parents are adopted so the name is literally 2 generations old AND he isn’t close to his father). Like Portia, my husband is really supportive of me, believes in equality in our relationship and all that jazz, but it really bugs him that I won’t take his last name. And he can never articulate it to me in a way that makes sense and what it basically comes down to for him is that it’s ‘expected’ and ‘normal’ for the woman to take the man’s last name, that it’s like we’re not as much of a family if we have two different last names (his reason for not taking mine is career… which is absolutely legitimate and why I’d never expect or push him to take my name). I’m fine with using his name socially at times, but not with totally severing myself from my maiden name. The fact that I – and so many other women – can’t just do what they damn well please because of tradition and history and expectations makes this so much more than what the word ‘choice’ indicates. It’s not like ‘Diet Coke vs. Diet Pepsi’ where people accept your decision and that’s the end of that (well, actually, maybe Coke vs. Pepsi isn’t an apt comparison… because Pepsi, blech, who chooses Pepsi?)

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  • Addie Pray

    Addie Pray October 23, 2014, 11:55 am

    You guys, I’ve made a decision. I never thought I’d change my last name – and I still won’t – but now, the decision I’ve made is: I’m going to ask my future husband to take MY last name. That would be so awesome. It’s my new plan. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy October 23, 2014, 12:21 pm

      I think that’s an awesome idea. Or, he could keep his name and you could give your kid(s) your last name. Pray is a lovely last name.

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      • Addie Pray

        Addie Pray October 23, 2014, 3:14 pm

        That will be Plan B. Plan A – we all go by Pray. Plan B – the kids and I go by Pray. Plan C – I go by Pray and everyone else goes by Clooney (or you know whatever my future husband’s last name is.) Plan D – I have a change of heart at the time and I become Addie Clooney. Stranger things have happened!

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  • avatar

    MicNikki October 27, 2014, 3:24 pm

    Sometimes I wish polls gave more options. Because honestly…I would never say someone who changes her name is a “traitor to feminism,” that’s a ridiculous hyperbole. But as for “their life, their choice”…can’t I believe it’s their choice, but also wish they wouldn’t do it? Is there an option a little bit in the middle? I support all my friends who changed their names and all that jazz, and I would never try to change someone’s mind about a decision that’s incredibly personal, but I *do* feel a little more strongly about it than I usually choose to admit in person.

    Your name is your identity: it’s a symbolic marker of who you are. When you change your name after marriage, it’s a pretty huge reshuffling of that identity. You’re no longer who you’ve always been; you’re now a new person. It’s like you’re saying now that you’re a wife, you’re someone to be re-invented. (I realize that’s not what most women think about when they change their names, but I felt so strongly about this after my own marriage that I really can’t wrap my head around what could possibly possess someone to make that decision.)

    So, sure, I firmly believe that every woman needs to do what makes the most sense for her and I support her making choices she’s comfortable with. In Quebec, the government makes the choice for you (it’s illegal to change your name after marriage) and I think that’s total bullshit.

    But honestly? I can’t for the life of me imagine why any woman would want to change her name, and I’m constantly surprised by the number of 21st century women who continue to do it. That’s the truth. So my answer would be “their life, their choice…but I wish more women made the choice to keep their names.”

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